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President Obama should lose the training wheels

Last Friday's televised meeting between President Obama and House Republicans at their retreat in Baltimore was a universal win (of varying degrees, of course). Obama faced his toughest critics and showed a mastery of his policies and theirs. The Republicans won, too. They were given a platform to showcase and defend their ideas, which Democrats have said don't exist. Most importantly, the American people won. Rather than the usual partisan bickering that masquerades as thoughtful debate around here, they were treated to an honest exchange of ideas that was breathtaking in its directness and civility.

President Obama in Baltimore
President Obama addresses Republicans in Baltimore AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

But the thing that was most striking about the event is how much better Obama is when he liberates himself from his glass training wheels. I speak of the TelePrompTer that he carts around with him everywhere. I can understand using it for a nationally televised address such as the State of the Union. But at the equivalent of a staff meeting? Take a look at this video of last week's meeting of the Middle Class Task Force. The words might be important, but zzzzzzz.

Obama needs to do more events like the GOP retreat and today's live YouTube Q & A (which will be available later today). It would go a long way to reconnecting the president with the people. And his ability to handle any and all questions put to him will remind them of why they voted for him.

By Jonathan Capehart  | February 1, 2010; 3:17 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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I disagree. I, for one, did not really enjoy watching that "Republican" debate because he kept responding to criticism and "explaining" stuff away, instead of actually leading and asserting himself. He's done a lot of explaining already and people agree with him. If he keeps on trying to explain and find excuses for things, that actually makes him look weak.

Posted by: eugene8 | February 1, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree that he is more compelling when speaking off the cuff. Everyone marvelled at Clinton speaking without notes - yet Obama is supposedly the best politician of our generation?
I also agree with the commenter. While I liked the event, President Obama needs to realize he has a massive majority in both houses and we gave him that majority to use it. We didn't elect him to institute the failed policies of the last 8 years. Yet all he wants to do is make friends. He should instruct Harry Reid and Pelosi to pass a health care bill ASAP or else (what or else is - I don't know. Maybe he should ask Bush Jr. How he was able to push through so many ridiculous policies. While I disagree with Bush policies, he is clearly the better politician because he was actually able to convince the country to go along on his wild ride)

Posted by: aksunder | February 1, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I heard a politician diffusing the issues in question, that is slang for LYING!
ummm ahhhh well, you know, a'lot of the
hearings were, well, ummm the caucas of
course, ahhhh....

you call that an answer?

Mr.Obama, You Lied!

we need representatives would can break the partisan bs and just say'
hey' barack/barry, What about C-Span???

Posted by: simonsays1 | February 1, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Pres. Obama's Q&A with the Repubs. was brillant. Answering their questions (alright some were talking points) in a thoughtful and factual way. Which, I think, surprised many. No way I could have that much stuff in my head :).

Posted by: rlj1 | February 1, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I absolutely agree that the Q&A session at the Republican House meeting was a treat. It was wonderful to see a President with a mastery of the facts, one who could explain his policies lucidly, and dissect the Republicans' talking points and so-called policies.

I agree - enough with the tele-prompters. Let's see more of the real Obama!

Posted by: sambam | February 1, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

This is not a victory for any side, this was an honest attempt for bipartisanship. As a republican, I was struck by the Q&A session that House Republicans hosted. I mean almost every point was talked about, every issue from debt to health was debated. I appreciated this form of open government and the opportunity to see republicans and the president without the aide of their media commentary allies in the same room. It was no spin no lies all in the same room. I saw this article that went into more detail than this that addressed some of the questions posed by House republicans, all conservatives should read:

Posted by: republicanblack | February 1, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse


it was a display of empty suits, both sides.

Posted by: newagent99 | February 1, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

It was amazing and unprecedented event last Friday to watch a "framed Q & A" conference with the GOP Congressmen , in which President Obama very candidly responded to questions on major issues facing the country. It is evident and the GOP Congressmen particularly their Senators in 2009 , have made it abundantly clear that they do not wish to give any votes , suppport and appearance of bipartisanship , in major bills under consideration submitted by the Democrats or the President . This will remain their winning strategy in election year. It is about time that Democrats in Congress and Obama administration should start focusing on strategic policy changes . Those that evidently and positively should impact upon middle class American core problems e. g., the rising unemployment , growing loss of health insurance, middle class home ownership losses , help for seniors and scores of other issues facing the U. S. They have to now use their own majority and may be some help in the process if they can get any GOPers , to bring the change we all voted for in 2008 .

Posted by: dmfarooq | February 1, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

It was great theater to watch the President and the Republicans and very informative to actually hear both sides present real ideas without all the partisan bickering. And do I agree about the teleprompter. Someone suggested it's like watching a ping pong match as the President's head bobs from side to side. It's so annoying. I love the Doris Kearns Goodwin story about LBJ and how dependent he was on his teleprompter. It went with him everywhere and he called it "mother."

Posted by: pjsilva | February 1, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Is this Capehart guy retarded or something?? Which President can he name who DIDN'T use a teleprompter since it became availabe. Reagan needed an earbud so somebody could remind him of what he was supposed to be saying. He was NEVER on TV without it!! ALL the news-casters also admit to using teleprompters. This Capehart must be a guy who never had to speak about anything important on national TV!! Bush couldn't even talk WITH a teleprompter~~maybe cuz he couldn't read!!?? Was he dyslexic??

Posted by: Maerzie | February 2, 2010 2:13 AM | Report abuse

Gimme a break. He does fine WITH the teleprompter too. He's the same informed, on-the-ball president with or without the technology.

Posted by: HelloDollyLlama | February 2, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

simonsays wrote:
I heard a politician diffusing the issues in question, that is slang for LYING!
ummm ahhhh well, you know, a'lot of the
hearings were, well, ummm the caucas of
course, ahhhh....

you call that an answer?

Mr.Obama, You Lied!

we need representatives would can break the partisan bs and just say'
hey' barack/barry, What about C-Span???

If you weren't so bigoted you could admit that he waxed their behinds and debunked all of that deficit crap that they have gotten air heads like yourself to believe. The Republicans ran up the deficit over 8 years and broke the bank and now 12 months later you idiots think that their failed policies will work. The recession is easing and jobs will recover too just a little more slowly and every expert knew that this would be the case. The moron party really has unique strategy: break the bank, and than give the other party 12 months to fix it and blame them and say our same old ideas are the right ideas. The Republicans number two man on the budget commitee just reoommended reducing social security for those under 55 and invest the extra money in the stock market which just lost 35% of its' value under Bush.

Posted by: impartial1 | February 3, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

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